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SWF Great Debate: Artificial Intelligence is Better Than the Real Thing

23 May 2024
8.00pm – 9.15pm AEST
Centennial Hall, Sydney Town Hall
This event has ended
Annabel Crabb, David Marr, Rhys Nicholson, Yumi Stynes, Toby Walsh

Annabel Crabb | David Marr | Rhys Nicholson | Yumi Stynes | Toby Walsh

Humankind stands at a crossroads: will artificial intelligence make us superhumanly productive, liberating us from life’s most mundane tasks? Or have we opened Pandora’s box, unleashing sentient technology that will eventually destroy us? 

In a colossal contest of persuasion and wit, two teams of our best and brightest debate whether artificial intelligence is better than the real thing.  

Decide once and for all with team captains Annabel Crabb and David Marr, as they duke it out alongside teammates Matilda Boseley, Rhys Nicholson, Tracey Spicer and Toby Walsh.

Adjudicated by Yumi Stynes.

This event is presented by the Sydney Writers' Festival and supported by UNSW Sydney. 


UNSW Sydney is the exclusive university sponsor and proud Premier Partner of the Sydney Writers’ Festival. Featuring UNSW academics and researchers on Sydney Writers’ Festival stages, and events at the UNSW Kensington Campus, this partnership brings together a shared vision of creativity, curiosity and thought leadership. 


Ticket Prices*
Adult – From $35
Concession – From $30
Wheelchair User – $35

*plus booking fees

Venue Information
This event will take place live at Sydney Town Hall. For all venue and visitor safety information, please visit Sydney Writers' Festival.


Assistive Listening 
Available in this venue. 

Wheelchair Access
All Festival venues are accessible, and provide wheelchair and level access. To book accessible seats at Sydney Town Hall, please contact the Sydney Writers' Festival Box Office on 02 9256 4200 or email

Accessible Parking
Accessible parking is available for approved permit in designated parking zones. Contact Sydney Writers' Festival Box Office on 02 9256 4200 or email for more information.


Sydney Town Hall is located at 483 George Street, Sydney. This is a 2 minute walk from Town Hall Station. Catching public transport is strongly recommended as parking in the area is strictly limited. For more information on transport, visit or visit,



Sydney Writers' Festival
For all event enquiries, contact the Sydney Writers' Festival on 02 9256 4200 or email

UNSW Centre for Ideas
For all other enquiries, contact the UNSW Centre for Ideas on 02 9065 0485 or email

National Relay Service
The UNSW Centre for Ideas and Sydney Writers' Festival are happy to receive phone calls via the National Relay Service. TTY users, phone 133 677, then ask for the applicable organisations phone number (listed above). Speak and Listen users, phone 1300 555 727 then ask for applicable organisations phone number (listed above). Internet relay users, visit, then ask for applicable organisations phone number (listed above). 

Annabel Crabb

Annabel Crabb

Annabel Crabb is an ABC writer and presenter who has covered Australian politics for nearly 25 years as a news reporter and columnist. She is the creator and presenter of Ms Represented, presenter and writer for the ABC-wide Australia Talks project, and co-host of the initial and 2021 return series of Tomorrow Tonight, with Charlie Pickering. She has written and presented the documentary series on life inside parliament, The House with Annabel Crabb. She created the political interview series Kitchen Cabinet, which she has presented for seven seasons on ABC TV. She has won a Walkley Award for feature writing, with her Quarterly Essay entitled Stop At Nothing: The Life And Adventures of Malcolm Turnbull.

With friend and ABC colleague Leigh Sales, Annabel hosts the podcast Chat 10 Looks 3, an independent podcast in which the pair discusses books, film, culture, and cooking. Their first book together, Well Hello, was published in September 2021.

David Marr

David Marr

David Marr has written for Fairfax and the Guardian. He presented the ABC’s Media Watch for some years and appeared often on Q&A and Insiders. His many books include lives of Patrick White and Garfield Barwick. Among the half dozen Quarterly Essays he has written are The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell. Black Inc recently published My Country, stories, speeches and essays about the Australia he has been exploring over 45 years. His latest book is Killing for Country, a personal reckoning with Australia's frontier wars.

Rhys Nicholson

Rhys Nicholson

Rhys Nicholson is a multi-award-winning Australian comedian, writer, actor and presenter. Alongside a booming live and televised stand-up career – with performances in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and North America and on Netflix – they are a favourite across our small screens too, from panel shows to documentary, acting roles (in the sci-fi comedy The Imperfects) and as a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under. With an enormous passion for live performing, their work continues to receive awards and accolades around the world. Dish is their debut book.

Yumi Stynes

Yumi Stynes

Yumi Stynes hosts a national radio show on the KiiS network, The 3pm Pickup, and has written a series of guidebooks, including Welcome to Consent, which was named one of the New York Public Library's top 50 books of 2021. In spite of her history of TV presenting, Yumi is now best known for Ladies, We Need to Talk, which has been a cult podcast since it first dropped in 2017, spawning its own book and numerous ‘book’ clubs where women get together and unpack what they've heard after each new episode. If she dies tomorrow, she'll be glad that she got to co-write the definitive guidebook on what to do when you get your period.

Toby Walsh

Toby Walsh

Toby Walsh is Chief Scientist of UNSW.AI, UNSW Sydney’s new AI Institute. He is a strong advocate for limits to ensure AI is used to improve our lives, having spoken at the UN and to heads of state, parliamentary bodies, company boards and many others on this topic. This advocacy has led to him being "banned indefinitely" from Russia. He is a Fellow of the Australia Academy of Science and was named on the international "Who's Who in AI" list of influencers. He has written four books on AI for a general audience, the most recent is Faking It! Artificial Intelligence in a Human World.